I have today written to Home Office Minister Brandon Lewis about comments he made in the newspaper Die Welt yesterday, in which he said that EU citizens who do not apply for settled status by 2021 may face deportation.
Lewis said “If EU citizens have not registered by then without an adequate justification, the immigration rules will apply.” When pressed on whether this would mean deportation, he answered: “Theoretically yes. We will apply the rules.” EU citizens in the UK are worried about their rights, and these comments will cement those fears even further.
Labour is calling for a registration, rather than application system. Under a registration system, if someone does not secure settled status by the end of 2020 they will not lose their rights to live and work in the UK. They will just need to register for the Government to provide them with proof of their status. A registration system is the only way to avoid a repeat of Windrush for EU citizens.
EU citizens’ rights must also be protected in primary legislation. We must honour the promises made to them and treat them as we want the 1.2 million British citizens who live in other EU countries to be treated.
Here’s the full text of my letter:
I am writing regarding your recent comments in Die Welt, in which you made it clear that EU citizens may be deported if they have not applied for settled status by the end of 2020. You said: “If EU citizens have not registered by then without an adequate justification, the immigration rules will apply.” When pressed on whether this would mean deportation, you said: “Theoretically yes. We will apply the rules.”
These comments confirm that the Government has broken its promises to EU citizens. During the EU referendum campaign, Boris Johnson, Priti Patel and Michael Gove pledged that: “There will be no change for EU citizens already lawfully resident in the UK. These EU citizens will automatically be granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK and will be treated no less favourably than they are at present.” Boris Johnson used his first Commons statement as Prime Ministers to assure EU citizens that “under this Government, they will have the absolute certainty for the right to live and remain.” Clearly, EU citizens do not have “absolute certainty” about their rights if they are at risk of deportation in 2021.
In defence of your comments you tweeted yesterday: “We’ve always said we’ll allow time for those with reasonable grounds for missing the deadline”. Could you set out what constitutes ‘reasonable grounds’? The current immigration rules set out that an applicant must provide credible evidence that their failure to apply was genuinely out of their control. Will this high bar apply to EU nationals who do not apply for settled status before the deadline?
We have seen a number of problems with the EU Settlement Scheme already, most glaringly the rate at which applicants are being granted ‘pre-settled status’ rather than ‘settled status’. Pre-settled status comes with substantially fewer rights and is a temporary form of leave lasting up to 5 years instead of indefinite leave to remain. In addition to the cliff edge at the end of 2020, when anyone who has not applied will face possible deportation, pre-settled status creates millions of individual cliff edges, when someone’s pre-settled status runs out and they do not apply for settled status, so lose their rights to live and work in the UK.
No system has a 100% success rate. Even if 97% of EU nationals living in Britain apply for settled status, that will leave 90,000 facing the hostile environment and possible deportation. Campaigners and the Labour Party are calling for a declaratory, or registration, scheme to replace the current application system. Under a declaratory scheme, if someone does not register for settled status by the end of 2020 they will not lose their rights to live and work in the UK. They will just need to register for the Government to provide them with proof of their status. A declaratory scheme is the only way to avoid a repeat of Windrush.
EU citizens in the UK are worried about their rights. As the recent Guardian long read illustrated, for many EU citizens the Settlement Scheme is not as straightforward as the Government has been advertising. These fears are compounded by reckless statements about free movement ending on 1st November. I would urge the Government to adopt proposals for a registration scheme as soon as possible.
Given the short period before 31st October, I would appreciate an urgent response to the concerns set out in this letter.
With best wishes,
Paul Blomfield MP
Shadow Minister for Exiting the EU